MUSCATINE, Iowa–Though chilly winter weather may not appeal to everyone, it allows Special Olympics of Muscatine athletes to compete in three of their favorite winter sports, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing. This year, athletes in all three of these sports distinguished themselves at the Special Olympics Iowa Winter Games, held Jan. 9 and 10 in Dubuque.
An annual event, athletes prepare for this unique set of competitions in a variety of ways. Because downhill skiing requires special practice, all of Muscatine’s contestants practice it on their own, as they ski recreationally outside of Special Olympics. The cross country skiers and snowshoers participate in conditioning at the Muscatine Y before the event. If Muscatine gets enough snow, they get out practice sets of skis and snowshoes to get a little extra work with them in before the Games. Once athletes arrive at Sundown Mountain Resort, Special Olympics Iowa gives them opportunities to practice with the equipment they will use, ensuring they feel comfortable with it before they compete. Special Olympics of Muscatine Interim Director Tim Atkins explained, “the first day of the competition, they’re clinics to make sure they’re comfortable and able to do what they need to do.”
After the practices finish, athletes competed in a variety of individual and group competitions. In snowshoeing, Atkins felt the relay team, consisting of Shawn Ashbaugh, Cal Brus, Danielle Nally, and Garry Sander, did particularly well: “Our relay team in snowshoeing did a good job. They really pulled together and came back from a deficit.” In downhill skiing, Nathan Paulson put up a strong showing. In cross country skiing, Chris Ashbaugh earned a gold metal.
All together, Special Olympics of Muscatine’s 24 athletes earned a significant number of medals, 12 gold, 14 silver, 8 bronze, three fourth place ribbons, and three fifth place ribbions. Looking back over the events of the games, Atkins felt pleased with how hard the athletes worked in their different events, “we’re all about competition; it’s good for the human soul,” he said.
He also added that he felt glad that all the athletes enjoyed the time they had with friends from Special Olympics teams from across the state. “For the state contests, the athletes love to get together with their larger Special Olympics family.”
Following a good showing at the Special Olympics Iowa Winter Games, Special Olympics of Muscatine’s athletes have already begun preparing for their next competitions, aquatics, basketball, powerlifting, and for the first time in a decade, cheerleading. Most of these sports will have their state competitions at the Spring Classic in March. However, local Special Olympics of Muscatine supporters can come watch athletes swim at the District Aquatic Meet Feb. 25 at Muscatine High School.